Many African-American students read about their history in textbooks and celebrate Black History Month every February, but it’s not often they get to meet and hear the stories from those who came before them.
That changed Friday for Brownsville Middle School students when they met Dorothy Fields and Bea Hines, to hear their stories through HistoryMakers, an organization that aims to educate and enlighten people worldwide through preserving the life stories of both known and unsung African Americans.
“We came from humble beginnings,” said Fields, founder of The Black Archives History and Research Foundation, which started in 1977 and has documented black South Florida’s history beginning 1896. “At my high school, there was only one medical arts course: Everyday Living.”
Fields told students how both she and Hines learned about taking care of people and newborns through that one course and how blessed Brownsville students were to attend a magnet school that offers both broadcast/theater arts and medical/allied health.
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“As you grow, think about something you enjoy doing so much that you would do it for free,” Fields said. “Listen. Learn. Ask questions as you find your talent.”
Students were encouraged by Fields to do the right thing and to always ask questions, because bad questions don’t exist.
Fields then introduced Hines, the first black female reporter at the Miami Herald.
“I never thought I would be a reporter, I wanted to be an art teacher at first,” Hines said.
She told students that she got her foot in the door by working in the library as a file clerk.
“There were blacks working there, but not as reporters,” she said.
Hines went back to school at age 27 as a widow and single mother of two boys: Rick and Shawn.
She was encouraged to study journalism by the Herald’s book editor at the time.
“He told me that things were going to change and that I needed to be ready for those changes,” Hines said.
Hines became a general assignment reporter in June 1970 despite the odds of being African American and landing the job, she said.
Through HistoryMakers, the Brownsville Middle students could see living proof of what determination can do.
“Be prepared for anything,” Hines said. “There were people that did not want us to succeed, but with God we did it.”